Sunday, August 13, 2006

The undead of Quidi Vidi Lake

So, last year around this time, when Kristen returned to London ON, I attempted to salve my loneliness by watching the remake of Dawn of the Dead and getting a bit drunk. As I reported back then, this was not the greatest of strategies, leaving me lonely, drunk and terrified.

As avowed a number of times on this site, I am pretty much a wimp when it comes to scary movies, and the greatest culprits for me are zombie flicks ... not so much for the jump-out-of-my-seat shocks as the lingering sense of dread that stays with me for a week or two afterward. Scary movies I can deal with, albeit badly, but with zombie films I don't sleep. Not because of the towel hung over my closet door, which takes on ominous shapes in the dark, but the various apocalyptic scenarios that run through my mind for hours on end.

In other words, I get seriously creeped out. Even Shaun of the Dead had me a bit freaked.

So it was with no little surprise that I found this year when Kristen again departed that I had an odd desire to repeat last summer's zombie-Irish whiskey combination. And subjected myself to 28 Days Later. A glutton for punishment am I. (And to preempt certain comments, yes I know it isn't strictly speaking a zombie film, but structurally and thematically it has enough in common that I'm lumping it into the genre here for the sake of argument).

It is, I must, an extremely good film -- extremely scary, but thankfully without quite the same measure of lingering dread left by Dawn, for reasons I won't get into in order to avoid giving away plot points. But highly recommended if you're into that sort of thing. The images of a post-apocalyptic London, and the long stretches emptiness and silence are haunting. And all the more remarkable when you realize that director Danny Boyle (of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave fame) did the film on a shoestring budget, and so all the scenes of deserted London were shot in tiny windows of time when they could clear the settings of people -- or stop traffic.

All this is by way of leading up to making a strong recommendation: namely, one should not watch a zombie movie and then go jogging soon after along a wooded path in the dense fog. I went for a run yesterday afternoon around Quidi Vidi lake, and the fog was so thick I could barely see the water's edge. And as one runs in that mist, which has the paradoxical effect of both muffling and carrying sound, it is hard not to think of every horror movie you've ever seen.

(One Halloween night a number of years ago, I was playing an intramural soccer game at Western, and the field lights illuminated an eerie knee-high mist cloaking the pitch, which itself happened to border on a forested bit leading down to the river. At one point, someone punted the ball too hard, and it went off into the woods. A guy standing close to where it went out called out cheerfully "I'll get it!" and bounded into the trees. The guy standing next to me on the field shook his head and muttered, "Oh, he's not coming back alive") .

All of this however resurrected in my mind my idea from last winter for a zombie film set in St. John's. Time to draft a treatment, perhaps ... do you think I could get a Canada Council grant for that?


iFreud said...

Despite being educated, and a non-believer in religion, scary movies give me a sort of post-traumatic stress like disorder. My sleep is disturbed, I get nightmares and I am hypervigilant for several days afterwards. I think it has something to do with my empathy...?

Your urge to watch scary movies and drink whiskey in the wake of your partner's absence, makes perfect sense, really. An interesting emotional coping mechanism. Maybe I should try your ritual too, as I have yet to figure out how to deal my spouse's absence!

Swain said...

If you like zombie films, you might want to check out Joe Dante's contribution to the Masters of Horror TV series, Homecoming. ( I've heard good things, but been unable to find a copy for rent.

I like the idea of a zombie movie set on campus, provided the female zombies are wearing Ugg boots, and the males are wearing some equally revolting trendy apparel.

Chris in NF said...

As it happens Swain, one of my former students did exactly as you suggested this past Halloween ...